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The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team












Monday, November 10, 2014

Gateway to Space Conference Honors McDonnell Mercury Spacecraft Pioneers at Boeing St. Louis Facility

By Carmelo Turdo
The St. Louis Space Frontier, a chapter of the National Space Society, opened the Gateway to Space Conference November 7-9 with a St. Louis Space Retrospective event at the James S. McDonnell Prologue Room located at the Boeing Company's St. Louis Defense, Space and Security Division headquarters.  The Prologue Room, an exhibit hall featuring large-scale models of aerospace vehicles from Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, North American and other businesses that have become part of the Boeing Company over the years, is located in the former headquarters building of the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation across the street from the plant that manufactured the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft.  Conference attendees were invited to the Prologue Room auditorium to attend a panel discussion featuring seven McDonnell Aircraft employees who participated in the design and construction of the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft and special guest Lowell Grissom, brother of astronaut Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom and also a McDonnell Aircraft employee working in other areas of the company.  The guests and format for the event were first introduced by the Missouri Aviation Historical Society in May of 2013, were an instant success, and were also featured on an HEC-TV special, "HEC-TV Live:  History in the First Person: Building the Mercury Capsule" later that year.  Their story will continue to captivate the imagination of current and future generations of space explorers through the rebroadcast of these forums for many years to come.

Conference attendees and organizers gathered for a reception at the James S. McDonnell Prologue Room about an hour prior to the forum.  Along with the formal exhibits, additional displays were brought by the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, The Space Museum at Bonne Terre, MO and Mac's Old Team (retired McDonnell Aircraft employees, some of which were on the forum panel). 
































Following the reception, the panel discussion was held in the auditorium located just off the lobby entrance.  The forum involving the members of the McDonnell Aircraft Mercury and Gemini spacecraft design and production team was introduced and moderated by Mr. Earl Mullins of The Space Museum in Bonne Terre, MO.  The eight participants were asked several open-ended questions about their first-hand experiences during the dawn of the U.S. manned space flight and their views on the current and future programs.  Video coverage of the forum will air on future posts of The Aero Experience

Earl Mullins from The Space Museum moderates 

Paul Baldwin from St. Louis Space Frontier greets attendees

Lowell Grissom, Bob Schepp and other panelists approach the stage

Panelists are introduced by Earl Mullins 

Panelists are recognized by conference organizers with a special award

Award is presented to Mac's Old Team leader Norm Beckel

The award's illumination is admired by panel recipients

Mac's Old Team panel participants: Jerry Roberts, Norm Beckel,
Lowell Grissom, Bob Schepp, Earl Robb, Dean Purdy,
Ray Tucker and Nelson Weber

Earl Mullins, Paul Baldwin, Ray Tucker, Nelson Weber, Earl Robb,
Lowell Grissom, Dean Purdy, Bob Schepp, Jerry Roberts, Norm Beckel
and Bill Alban

The Aero Experience thanks all involved with bringing the Gateway to Space Conference to St. Louis.  Check back for additional video coverage of the panel discussion soon.   

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